October 27, 2022 – If you’ve had the chance to talk with one of the longest tenured executive search professionals in the country, you’d best be ready to feel exposed, laugh a lot, and learn what it takes to secure the job you want—not the leftovers.
Entering his 38th year in executive search, industry behavioral scientist and capitalist Russ Riendeau, senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company, recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss what it takes to present your best and most accurate self. Dr. Riendeau started in search in 1985 and has studied what the key elements are to find the best talent and teach clients how to interview effectively.
Cliché responses to Dr. Riendeau’s questions about your motives to change jobs, leave a company, why you got fired or laid off when the boss could have picked someone else, as well as why your income is not in the top 15 percent of the rest of the pack will only delay the inevitable truth: admission that you’re not as prepared as you thought to compete in today’s competitive job markets. But he says that you will walk away better informed than most candidates.
“You can’t talk your way out of the behaviors that got you here,” is one of this Dr. Riendeau’s favorite axioms. You changed jobs every 16 months over a 10-year period? What is going on? “Sure, you have great explanations to why this kept happening, but reality shows it kept happening,” Dr. Riendeau said. “Whose fault is it? And why should a hiring manager take a risk on you again? Risky business is not good business. Your LinkedIn profile is MIA and you’re a sales manager looking for a new job. How can you argue that you are a great sales manager when you’re not using the best competitive intelligence and marketing tool on the planet to train your team? No manager worth anything will accept any answer other than it’s an excuse.”
Dr. Riendeau says it is important to demonstrate that you are working towards that goal. He shares a parable of sorts: “There’s a story that depicts the guy down on his luck and prays to God to let him win the lottery. “Please God, help me win the lottery and I promise to do good things with some of the money, put my kids thru college and buy a nice home for my family.” He prays every day for a year and God fails him. Nothing. Frustrated, the man prays one last time, “Lord, I’ve prayed faithfully for a year for your help and you’ve shown me nothing for my requests. I’m giving up that you really exist.” The next evening, a messenger from God reaches the man in a dream: “God’s asking you to meet him halfway on your request— will you at least buy a damn lottery ticket!”
Today’s job seekers must meet the demands of employers more than halfway. “You need to demonstrate and show your work, show you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses and what you are doing to leverage the first and improve on the latter,” he said. “Excuses, deflection, victim talk, pandemic fatigue—all fall on deaf hiring manager ears because the best candidates are proving these false arguments wrong.” Jim Rohn’s classic phrase “Don’t wish things were different—wish you were better” is as timely today as 30 years ago, Dr. Riendeau says.
Real World Job Search Strategies
Today’s job changers, college graduates, and career changers are not investing the time and energy to research their desired markets of interest, according to Dr. Riendeau. “They’re not preparing their resumes to reflect their research and preparation to enter that field, sending a standard-issue resume in the click/send/click send job vending machine world of job boards and literally hoping someone will give them a chance,” he said. “This is not the way to secure the top paying job in any field when you play the shotgun approach to answering job postings. Every person is doing the same thing. How can you compete and show your value-added talent to research, prepare, evaluate, and demonstrate your logical and emotional approach to the field of interest? It’s not the capitalist’s responsibility to give you a chance if you haven’t proven you deserve it or are less of a risk to hire.”
Russ Riendeau, Ph.D., is senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company, a retained search practice specializing in senior leadership, sales & sales management. The author/co-author of 11 books, numerous TEDx Talks, and a highly regarded keynote speaker, he also consults and writes about behavioral science topics and peak performance.
“The capitalist is not interested in your excuses to why you’ve not done as well or not prepared enough,” Dr. Riendeau said. “They are charged with insuring their company remains profitable, viable, and relevant in the business community. If you can contribute—you’re hired. If they doubt it—you’ll be out of the interview in 15 minutes, if you even get an interview.”
Unfortunately, even colleges are doing a poor job in both exposing students to realities of job search 101 methodologies, as well as lacking in mandated courses that enhance the chances of finding that elusive job the graduate desires, Dr. Riendeau says. “Check out any college alumni job board, career centers—even the LinkedIn profiles of their business school dean instructors will reveal example after example of weak profiles, outdated content, and an inconsistent commitment to the reality that LinkedIn, in this example, is the most critical tool to showcase one’s skills, intentions, and accomplishments thus far in one’s life,” he said. “And it’s even a free tool, if you don’t want to invest in an even more robust version.”
Hunt Scanlon asked Dr. Riendeau what he and other search professionals see as the weak elements of job seekers in today’s competitive and tight labor markets. “Here’s the insightful and brutally honest insights from the search community professionals that know what hiring managers look for, push back on and demand when making offers for the best jobs in America,” he said. “And, if you are a hiring manager reading this interview, if you don’t see this level of intensity and preparation in your candidates, take it as a warning sign. If the candidate can’t document the efforts and success of their career thus far, regardless of how believable they are, be cautious.”
Dr. Riendeau says his insights are only intended to inform job seekers that have been misinformed as to what really is needed to secure job offers and succeed in business long term. He offers the following points of concern:
- Your LinkedIn profile is uninspiring, rarely used, non-existent, outdated, not accessible, and not monitored by you.
- You don’t have your photo on your profile or the about section completed.
- Your resume has not been modified to reflect experience/success related to the job posting.
- Your resume has typos, grammar issues, overt capitalization of “important words.”
- The resume is vague on what you are paid to do every day in an attempt to be all things to all interviewers.
- Click/send/click/send shotgun approach to finding a job is apparent and suggests lack of focus, desperation perhaps, or unwillingness to research industry or position that will fit your personality.
- No phone number, email, or LinkedIn link so the head hunter/HR/talent scout can reach you easily.
- Lack of urgency in response time if you are called to explore the job.
- Reason to change jobs is inconsistent, poorly explained, illogical, or not compelling enough to desire a change.
- Claiming that your truthful, naïve interview responses is you being “transparent” is not an excuse. It can be an indicator of lack of preparation or accurate assessment of your track record.
- Asking about income too soon before you have given evidence you are worth whatever money you say you want/deserve/demand.
- Excessive job changes in good times or pandemic times without evidence of what you are doing to course correct the decisions made to accept/pursue those positions in the first place.
- Calling the head hunter or hiring manager back without first doing research on that person or the company.
- Calling from the car while driving, dogs barking, or Starbucks expresso machines blaring.
- Admitting to the head hunter or hiring manager you’re “testing the waters…seeing what’s out their…I’m bored…I need to make more money…My boss is a jerk…been thinking about making a change for years…my industry doesn’t pay very well…”
- You admit to the interviewer you would consider a counteroffer when you resign.
- You admit you have not engaged in pursuing professional development training (reading books, webinars, podcasts, association meetings, TED Talks, LinkedIn course work, etc.) in the past two and a half years since the pandemic struck.
- You admit you don’t know why you were laid off/let go/fired, and can’t get a reference from your boss to validate your explanations.
- You admit you quit your job during the pandemic because your spouse or partner was working and you were just “burned out, tired, frustrated,” and could afford to quit your job and take some time off.
- You say you want to earn more income and admit you’re not engaging in learning what you need to do to earn more—you just say you want more.
- If asked, “Would life change much if you earned $25,000 more next year?” you admit that it would not.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media